Corey Kluber is nothing if not the ultimate professional. We constantly hear stories from Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians’ front office raving about Kluber’s work ethic, approach to pitching, and the example he sets for the other young members of the Indians’ rotation.
Despite all this, there had been some rumblings from fans that Kluber—of all the members of the Indians—was overrated. Sometimes it was a fan sitting next to you who called him a one-year wonder. Sometimes it was a that guy who called into the local sports radio station complaining about Kluber’s 0-3 record over his last three starts as the Indians fell out of contention and were eliminated from the American League wild card race.
Because of these rather unfair criticisms, it was especially enjoyable to watch a vintage Kluber performance during the Indians’ 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox last night at Progressive Field. Kluber was absolutely dominant, pitching eight scoreless innings while striking out nine and allowing just three hits and two walks. While he finished the season with a record of just 9-16, Kluber also pitched 222 innings with 245 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA, much better indicators of how he pitched this season. Kluber also joins Bob Feller and Sam McDowell as the only Tribe pitchers to record at least 245 strikeouts in consecutive seasons.
As has been the case throughout the season, Kluber didn’t get much help from the Indians’ offense, but tonight he got enough. Carlos Santana—another often maligned player—led off the second inning by driving a pitch by Red Sox starter Craig Breslow over the wall in left center to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. The home run was Santana’s team-leading 19th of the year. Ryan Raburn then copied Santana by leading of the fourth inning with a solo shot to left center of his own, his eighth of the year, which gave the Indians the 2-0 lead that wound up being the final score.
Cody Allen pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 33rd save of the year and, with a record of 80-80, the Indians are once again back at .500. With the Tribe playing only 161 games this year due to rainouts, Sundays game will determine whether or not the Indians are an above or below .500 team. While it may not matter in terms of the standings or making the playoffs, both the Indians and their fans would probably feel a bit better if the team finished with their third winning season in a row, even the only reward for doing so is personal pride.